No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Sunday, 31 January 2016


I cooked 500g of dried r-k beans today, for the freezer.

They looked so lovely, whilst they were drying out prior to freezing them, I just had to share them with you!

1.171kg of pure wholesomeness! They not only taste good - but they look good as well!
I prefer to used dried pulses for several reasons:
Firstly, the cost. At £1.09 in the supermarket, these are great value for money.
Secondly, the quality is always consistent. That is, provided you turn over your stock so that you're always using 'fresh' beans.
Thirdly, you can use as many or as few as you wish. I tend to just grab a handful from the freezer and add them to whatever veg stew I'm cooking at the time.
Fourthly, they're environmentally friendly. Instead of approximately 5 tin cans, only one plastic bag is needed to package them. So there is less transport cost involved - 500g in the packet as against 2.4kg in the tins.
Fifthly, they are possibly healthier - although the jury's still out on whether tinned foods pose any health risks.

These instructions are specific for r-k-beans (no other beans need ten minutes vigorous boiling to remove the toxins).

Soaking, cooking and freezing:
Use a large saucepan to cook the beans. Cover with water and soak overnight - or at least 8 hours.
Refresh the water and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes, then reduce to a simmer until the beans are cooked. How long to let them simmer depends very much on how fresh the beans are. I've had beans that have been cooked after the initial ten minutes - others have taken 20 minutes or more - so I keep checking every few minutes.

When the beans are cooked, drain them and spread them out on a tea towel as per the above pic. If you do it while they are still warm, they dry off quicker. Transfer the beans into a freezer bag and freeze.  Whilst the beans are in the plastic bag, I spread them loosely over an oven tray to freeze them. Check after an hour and shuffle the beans before replacing them in the freezer. If you don't do this, the beans could clump together - but, freezing them spread out over the tray avoids this. I'm aiming to have them loose enough so that I can just grab a handful whenever I wish.

Sounds a bit of a faff, but it becomes routine after a few times.

Monday, 11 January 2016


(Makes 6-8 doughnuts and up to 10 chocolate rolls)

2 mugs (or 400g) strong white flour
2 dessertspoons sugar
2/3rds of a mug (or 250ml) lukewarm water
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
Splash of olive oil (optional)

A jar of jam (the thicker, the better) and 10 or so squares of decent eating chocolate
Sugar glaze
Sugar for sprinkling

1. Measure the water and stir in the yeast. Place the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and pour in the yeast liquid. Add the oil if using.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife (starting with the yeast first, to dissolve it properly), cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – and stop before you get fed up!

4. Doughnuts: Form the dough into a cob shape. Have plenty of flour to hand and scatter flour over the dough and worktop. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a large circle. Using pastry cutters, cut out 16 circles. Place 8 circles on a prepared baking sheet.  Place half a teaspoon of jam in the centre of each circle (not too much or the jam will leak out). Now cover the jam with the other circles, pressing down all round the edges . To seal properly, pick up the doughnut and squidge the edges together firmly – as if you were feeling your earlobe!

5. Pain au chocolat. Knead the scraps of dough back together (add a teaspoon of water if it looks too dry – you need the dough soft to keep the chocolate in!) Divide the dough into 10 pieces and press the chocolate gently into the middle of each piece. Squidge and pinch the dough together around the chocolate checking for any gaps. Place smooth side up on the baking tray.

6. Cover and leave to prove until they have grown appreciably in size. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 15 minutes.

7. Whilst these are baking, make a sugar glaze with a dessertspoon of sugar and two dsps of boiling water. When the rolls are done (look for colour underneath) brush them with the glaze straightaway. With the doughnuts, sprinkle with sugar while the glaze is still wet.

Friday, 8 January 2016


(Not be confused with these.)

No, these are your traditional Shrove Tuesday pancakes, mostly sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice.

[I've put my latest, thoroughly tested, recipe in a separate post.]

I first made these a couple of years ago, and now they’re a firm family favourite every Pancake Tuesday – and occasionally, in between!

The recipe I initially followed I found on this thread on the BBC Food boards, but I’ve played about with it a little, since:

200g self raising flour
30g sugar
100ml soya milk
250ml water

These are every bit as good as the traditional ones which contain eggs.

It’s another illustration of how we are often in the grip of traditional recipes handed down by our forebears. My mother certainly always used eggs in pancakes, just as she always used eggs in sponge cakes.

I never imagined you could make pancakes without eggs – until I made one. Similarly I never thought sponge cakes could be made without eggs – until I began making them.

As a vegan I’m very happy to spread the word that you can dispense with eggs in these recipes – it’s not just the animal cruelty issues (male chicks are gassed at birth, for example), but for those on a restricted income, with the price of eggs these days, it’s a huge saving. 

Tuesday evening, 21st Feb.

I've been away for a couple of days and only just got back a couple of hours ago. I wanted to do an experiment - I hadn't made these since last year and I remembered I'd simplified the recipe, but I couldn't find anything written down.

So I made them to the above recipe - and they turned out fine. The mixture was a little thick, so I added a little water to get it to the consistency I wanted.

Then I made another batch leaving out the soya milk - but increasing the water. Once again the batter was thicker than I wanted, so I added more water.

And again, they were fine! I had them with sugar and lemon juice and they tasted just as I remembered pancakes tasting.

I'd need to have a side-by-side tasting to see if they're as good as the traditional recipe - but, without that, they were excellent.

So here's my amended recipe:

200g self raising flour
30g sugar
380ml water

Whisk together and start frying over a medium heat with a little oil. Adjust with extra water or flour if the batter is too thick or too thin. Makes about 10.

Wednesday 22nd Feb.
Felt the need to make another batch today - I wanted to be more accurate with the liquid.

I initially increased the water to 400ml (which pleased me, since this gave a ratio of 2:1 water to flour), but still found that a little thick - so I increased it again, this time to 440g.

And this was just about right. These pancakes are gorgeous, IMO, but I needed a second opinion so I popped one over the fence to see what the neighbours thought.

5 minutes later there was a knock on the window to hand the plate back and give me a report. The mother and two sons both thought they were 'real' pancakes and thoroughly enjoyed them. The mother was very surprised to learn it was basically flour and water - and summed up her impression of them by telling me I should get a patent on them, they were that good!

Friday 24th Feb.
I've now tried them without the sugar - makes no difference that I could see.

So we're left with only two ingredients - flour and water!

Tuesday 28th Feb.
Been making these for the past week, and I've decided that the batter could be a little thinner - so I now make them using:

200g self raising flour
600ml water